The day my son was in a school shooting.
The April day began as any other. John left for his High School, and I sat his brothers down for their homeschooling. They became immersed in their studies and I went upstairs to take care of a few things.
A little over two hours later my phone rang. It was John. I sighed internally, hoping he wasn't injured again and a hospital visit was in my days forecast. He is a very athletic guy, and as such receives a hospital worthy injury every few months.
I answered my phone, while trying to think which purse held his insurance card.
"Mom?" he whispered. There was a strange tone in his whisper.
"Son? You ok?"
"There's an active shooter, Mom."
Were enough to stop my heart.
I knew my jokester son was not messing with me, not about this.
He proceeded to tell me he had been walking with his girlfriend between classes and heard the shots. He grabbed her and rushed into the nearest open classroom, and quickly gathered as many students running by as he could before the principal announced the active shooter on the loudspeaker. He then quickly closed the door then had a couple other big guys help him move the heavy science table to barricade the door. He motioned for the students to lie low and be silent. He sat against the wall and called me.
Then he said "I love you Mom."
As I write this now, two and a half years later, my pulse is racing and I have to keep stopping to dry my eyes. There are truly no words to describe what I felt. It was surreal and terrifying.
My younger boys sensed something and I told them, I couldn't not. John was on the phone and I could hear this eerily deafening silence when we weren't speaking. Not the normal hum of school.
The police had been called, and it was already on CNN.
SWAT was surrounding the building.
I held my other boys and we waited in silence. There were no words that could have been said.
We watched the news, waiting for more reports.
It was like a dream. There was no way this could be happening. Not to us. This kind of stuff never happens to you.
It felt like forever but John called me soon. He said they had announced the shooter has been apprehended and taken off the premises, but to remain in place while SWAT cleared the building.
My first reaction was not to trust this, and John caught my unspoken energy because he said that there was no way he and the other students barricaded behind that door were going to open it for anything.
A couple of hours later, parents were informed to go to the football fields and identify their children and themselves, so they could pick up their student.
There were still police and what appeared to be FBI agents in suits and shades milling about. The parents were distraught, rushing the field after frantically circling for parking on the busy streets.
I don't think I have ever hugged my son harder.
He explained he had been walking his girlfriend to her class when suddenly there was a loud POP. The halls quieted, whispers of what was that were heard. Then suddenly a second, louder and closer and definitely a gunshot.
Kids screamed and scattered. John yanked his girl into the nearest class and grabbed more running kids. He said he will never forget the looks on their faces. All wide eyed, some sobbing, all confused and pale and terrified.
He told me "Mom, all the times you taught me to be calm really helped. I didn't panic- I heard your voice in my head do not panic and I noticed everyone else was. And they were just running without even knowing where they were going."
There was an announcement over the intercom stating there was an active shooter in the school, that it was on lockdown, and to take cover. His hallway quickly cleared and he shut the door, pulled the blinds, switched the lights off, and then looked around.
They all sat against the walls in small twos and threes. John noticed a jock holding a girl he would never have associated with outside of this incident. Everyone was crying, comforting or being comforted. They were looking around at each other, all children. Vulnerable. Scared.
The announcement that the shooter was apprehended and SWAT were checking the buildings did nothing to calm the atmosphere. John told me later that he imagined the shooter holding a gun to the principals head and forcing him to say that.
My son made SWAT verify their authority very well before allowing them in. They swept the room and asked if there was anyone but students in the room. Then they asked who had barricaded the door. John received proud commendations for his quick thinking and calm reactions.
The report was released before the 5 o'clock news. A student had suddenly started waving a handgun around in the commons, which scattered the kids. He walked up the stairway and fired a shot which ended up in the wall at the top of the stairs. That one was about 20 feet behind John. The next shot was only 15 feet.
That was when a teacher tackled the boy and wrestled the gun away from him. He was swiftly handcuffed by the SRO- School Resource Officer- a police officer who works with and in the school.
During interrogation, the boy admitted he took the pistol from his parent's with plans to scare the bullies who had been picking on him. He said he hadn't planned on shooting anyone, only scare the bullies. He had a history of mental illness.
Thankfully nobody had been shot. There were no hospital-worthy injuries. Therapists and counselors were brought in from surrounding areas for two weeks to help the children, staff, and community.
It is still very difficult to think about, even though after over two years it feels surreal... Like it didn't really happen to us. It's almost as if we had read it, or watched it on a movie. It does not feel like it happened to us, but the terrifying side effects remain.
It took me two days to write this.
John chose to be homeschooled after finishing out the remainder of the year.
The bullet holes remained in the stairwell for the rest of the school year.
Images via Creative Commons and Unsplash
I appreciate your support ❤